Faithful Politics

Being faithful with our politics, not political with our faith.

The AFA, Sears, and Porn

I often refer to the American Family Association (AFA) as the “worst part of Evangelicalism,” and I do so not entirely in jest (Christianity Today wins the coveted label “best part of Evangelicalism” for those who are wondering).  The AFA has long attempted to be the bulldog of the Religious Right.  Famous for boycotts and turning the culture war into an art form, the AFA is always willing to poke you in the eye and run you out of town, all in the name of Christ of course.  I recently received an e-mail from the AFA urging me to contact the Sears Corporation and complain about their online distribution of pornographic material.  I was also given a link to view for myself the smut they were peddling online, in case I didn’t believe them; needless to say I chose to take their word for it.

The next day I received another e-mail from the AFA, jubilant about their victory over the evil Sears Corporation.  Apparently enough loving, Spirit-filled Christians had complained, leading Sears to decide the porn industry was not for them.  Which brings us to the horns of this dilemma.  On one hand I am glad that Sears is not selling porn, our culture is already inundated with sexual immorality and we don’t need yet another venue for the multi-billion dollar industry to profit off of our sin nature.  On the other hand, everything within me cringes when Christians dive head-on into the throws of the culture war.  When has a “war” ever brought glory to God and individuals into His kingdom?

What then are we to do?  How should Christians approach the complex topic of societal morality?  Do we passively allow the world to engage in its wanton sensuality, or do we fight for the public memory of our nation’s “Christian” past?  How do you balance the obligations of being a member of a free-market society with your Christian faith?

As I have probably already made clear, I don’t think the idea of a culture war is at all compatible with the New Testament’s depiction of Christianity.  As 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 makes clear, immorality outside of the Church is not our chief concern.  We should draw a distinction, however, between immorality outside the Church and injustice outside the Church, but that is a topic for another time.  Our subject at hand is more than enough to keep us occupied for the time being.

So, you say, if an immoral society is not our chief concern, what are we to do with a free-market that promotes lifestyles contrary to biblical morality?  For starters, we need to recognize that denying the world venues through which to sin will not result in their salvation.  Placing a façade of virtue on a sinful world will not change the effects of the fall.  At the same time, we should be careful that our dollars—the all-powerful economic vote—do not support organizations that promote what is contrary to God’s will, which should include pornography and other sins not related to sexual ethics.

Here is where my solution differs from the AFA, though.  As a Body, we need to do a better job of earning the right to boycott.  Something you do by loving your neighbor, not poking them in the eye until they do what you want them to.  If we become a community that is known for extraordinary love, people will not be as turned off if the situation arises where we need to boycott an organization.  Additionally, I feel that a buycott—when you patronize businesses that support worthy causes—is a better way to show Christ’s love in the marketplace.  If the AFA and other Christian organizations put a little effort in directions such as these, they might find themselves wielding more influence, not less.  Plus, there would be the added benefit of avoiding that whole “angry Christian” syndrome and not tarnishing the Bride of Christ.

In a recent article in Christianity Today Phillip Yancey noted that the New Testament does not give much guidance on how Christians are to live as the majority in a society, and that may very well be why this topic can seem so murky.  Showing Christ’s love to a fallen world will always be a difficult task.  It is full of pitfalls and gray areas.  Well meaning Christians will always disagree on how we should best find our way in the free-market.  As you process through these issues, though,  I encourage you to ask God to give His Church wisdom as we navigate these treacherous waters.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you for this thoughtful and thought-provoking post.

    “We should draw a distinction, however, between immorality outside the Church and injustice outside the Church, but that is a topic for another time.”

    I agree with that statement, but would argue that injustice outside the church should NOT be “a topic for another time.” I agree that morality – if that is even the most effective word to use any more – includes sexual and individual sin…but it should not be limited to that. To over-generalize only a little bit, we Christians divide ourselves into two camps regarding morality – the ones who focus exclusively on sex and individual sin…and those who focus exclusively on “social justice” (another phrase we should start questioning).

    Why do we separate these two…justice and sexual/personal sin? They are often related in ways we don’t readily see (or, in some cases, don’t WANT to see).

    I remember some of my conservative Christian friends being elated when GW Bush won his second term. They said “finally, folks are voting for moral values and not their pocketbooks.”

    Two huge problems are revealed in that statement:
    1. Why do we think we can vote for moral values?
    2. Why do we think our morals should be separate from economic issues?

    Peace,
    Mark

    • Mark,

      Very well said. It is good to be reminded that our finances are indeed an outlet for our morality (or the lack thereof). I also like your connection between issues of justice and sexual sin, sex trafficking is a tragic example of how those two issues are often intertwined. And finally, you are correct that the term “social justice” is often over used. Kevin DeYoung had an interesting post on that topic a while ago, you might find it to be an interesting read.

      http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/01/12/a-modest-proposal/

      Thanks for your comment!

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